Bamboo shoot (takenoko) article in the Japan Times

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This month's Japan Times article is about bamboo shoots (takenoko in Japanese, written either as 竹の子 ('child of bamboo') or 筍). Vacuum packed or canned bamboo shoots are available year round these days (and it's the only way many of us can eat bamboo shoots at all), but fresh bamboo shoots taste better and have a much better texture. If you have a chance to get a hold of one, I hope you give one a try! There's also a recipe for takenoko gohan, bamboo shoots with rice. The usual way is to cook them with finely chopped upr aburaage (thin deep fried tofu), but you may want to try the bacon variation I have written down too. The salty-fattiness of the bacon goes very well with the crunchy texture of the bamboo shoot.

This is a display of premium bamboo shoots on sale at a store in Kyoto. They were impressively big. Digging out such big bamboo shoots is awfully hard work, but with bamboo shoots, the bigger ones tend to be more tender-crisp rather than fibrous.

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I remember going on a takenoko digging trip when I was a little girl with my aunt and cousins in the Chichibu mountains in Saitama prefecture. The big bamboo shoots need to be dug up with a sharp, angled digger like this one:

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As I said, digging those beasts out is very hard work indeed. (You can't just go into the mountains on your own by the way -- you can only dig with permission.) Us kids were not allowed to touch the digger since it was too dangerous, so we were relagated to digging around the shoot and pulling it out. Were the fresh bamboo shoots worth it? Well...not for an 11 year old. But I guess I might think differently about it now...although my lower back may have strong objections.

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